Since last December I have been virtually M.I.A. in many of my social media accounts and I have retreated from watching the news. Facebook is no longer my friend. After reading some of the most ignorant and hateful comments and feeling my chest get tight every time I got into a keyboard match with someone, I deleted the app from my phone. *I didn’t remove myself completely from Facebook but logging in on my computer gives me enough time to pause and ask if I really want to torture myself. I NEVER read any tweets, especially the ones that have news links in them, and if I had my way my television would constantly be set to sci-fi/fantasy shows. It’s set to Nick Jr. and Disney Jr. thanks to my three-year-old so that provides a well cushioned cocoon also.
The day after the inaugruration there was a Women’s March close to me and I had every intention of going until I woke up to discover that my throat wouldn’t allow it. I had gotten a cold, better yet the flu. I still attempted to go but as the morning dragged on my posture sunk further and further into the ground. The twenty-something me would’ve gone out anyway and forced my body to cooperate for the four hours that I needed it to shout, walk and stand. Then I would suffer the consequences for the next couple of weeks as I lie comatose in my bed unable to function or resemble a human being. Now at 36 I can no longer silence the aches and pains that come when I’m forced to take a break due to sickness. Plus I didn’t want to get other people sick. I mean, we can’t affect change when we can barely raise our fists.
Initially I was pissed. I wanted to march. I wanted to contribute to the collective voice of NO to the 45th. I wanted to network and communicate with other women who were doing things in their communities and lend a hand. But my body simply wouldn’t allow it. Being the spiritual, light-worker that I am I took my sickness as a sign. I wasn’t supposed to be out marching. I needed to be home. I needed to find other ways to fight. I have a tendency to go all out when it comes to a passion or desire that I have. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have gone to that march and expelled every last bit of energy in me only to come home with nothing to give to my wife and children. Over the past year I had ingested too much news and media coverage of black and brown bodies being murdered in conjunction with the rise of fiction over fact. I was emotionally and mentally spent.
On one hand I’m taking my emotional health very seriously by not ingesting any negative energy (i.e. news of Ben Carson calling African slaves immigrants who came to America for opportunity). On the other hand I’m out of the loop of what’s going on and that is risky when policies are being made that will undoubtedly affect me. So where’s the balance? Well, the balance lies within us. Our emotions are our best navigators. You know when you are on track with something that is right for you versus when something is wrong. Maybe you feel uneasiness in your gut or maybe you get headaches, you can’t sleep. Whatever your internal compass may be it’s there and it’s always working. We just have to listen and be attentive to it. Same goes for the information that we take in and how much of it we want to take in.
My mom is a great teacher for me in that she always tells me that whatever reality I want, I can create. If I want a world of fear and anger, then that is what I’ll get. If I want a world of peace and love, then that is what I’ll get. And this has proven true so many times in my life. In fact as I sit in my comfy chair in my living room listening to soothing meditation music I am fully aware that I have created this moment. I have created this reality and this space of a happy, comfortable, privileged life. So it goes without saying that if I want to see the world as more loving and compassionate, accepting and welcoming of me and my family, free from judgment and free from racism, then that is the world that I will live in. But it does’t feel that way. My mother would then tell me that I just need to keep working at it. Part of that work involved me shutting out the world and choosing to subject myself to narratives and stories that were not serving me.
By not listening to the news, checking my various social media feeds or using hashtags for all of the travesties and injustices that have happened, I’m not saying that they are any less important or that I don’t recognize them. I simply understand that I can’t affect change by spreading myself thin and reacting because someone on a screen told me to. My fight and my activism begins at home. I do my best to educate my daughters on the world based on my experiences and encourage them to be empowered in their own lives. I engage in conversations with people around me who may have different views that I do so that we can begin a dialogue. And I share my feelings, thoughts, and experiences with my wife who is not only my spouse but my best friend and gives me great advice and keeps me in check when I’m off base.
Information comes at us constantly whether we want it or not and it often call feel like we have no choice in the matter. But in the past couple of months, choosing to not be on the hamster wheel of news stories, images, rants and debates has brought me back to center. There are some out there who believe that removing yourself from such information and enacting self-care is a privilege and can become detrimental as this article states. However as Audre Lorde stated “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. For many black and brown people, women and LGBTQ people (and an intersection/combination of all of those) we do not have the “privilege” of self care as an opt out. A lot of times it is an opt in to be aware that our lives are important. It’s a moment to step bak and check yourself at the end of the day when the micro aggressions that you heard for eight hours makes you feel like your in the sunken place (that’s a Get Out reference for those of you that have seen the movie).
So turn off your television, turn of your phone, unplug from the information hamster wheel on occasion and get back to you. Ignore those people who may look at you like you dropped a stink bomb filled with rotten eggs and old fish when you say that you don’t watch the news. Your life is not worth being wrapped up in constant frustration. And every so often, when you feel like it, peek your head out to see what’s going on. Pick a source that can give you the information without any bravado (I like NPR) and then once you’re up to speed go back into your safe space. The world does need people who are informed and will take action but the world also doesn’t need informed people who are emotionally depleted.